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Do you need a child support modification? Here's what to do first

Nothing in life is secure, especially not your job or financial situation. No matter how many plans you make, and no matter how much money you have in the bank, something could happen to bring a financially difficult circumstance.

When a Salt Lake City parent gets hit with financial challenges, child support payments -- especially if they reflect your previous high earning capacity -- can become a serious burden. Imagine you own a construction company, a sudden dip in construction jobs results in your business going bankrupt and your once-lucrative earnings dry up. Your $2,000-a-month child support bill used to be easy afford, but now you can barely pay your electric bill.

If you're having trouble paying your child support payments due to a significant change in financial circumstances, it's time to act fast.

Here's what you should do first when you can't pay child support

Here's what you should do first, before you file for a child support modification in court:

  • Take immediate action to resolve your situation: Child support payments should be your first priority when it comes to paying your bills. The bigger your child support debt becomes, the more difficult your circumstances will get. Parents who are delinquent with their child support payments can even find themselves in contempt of court, and they could face criminal consequences. Take action immediately to avoid serious problems with the law.
  • Study up on Utah law as it applies to child support modifications: Depending on the severity of your change in financial circumstances, you may be able to gain approval for a child support modification. However, not all parents suffering from financial difficulty will have the right to reduce their child support obligations. The more you know about your unique circumstances and how the law applies to them, the better off you'll be in navigating the issue and will be less at risk of "spinning your wheels" and wasting your precious financial resources on pursuing a modification request that doesn't pan out.
  • Talk with the other parent of your children: This is the most important step that a lot of parents overlook. No matter what your relationship is with your ex, you should attempt to discuss the reality of your financial situation with him or her. You may be able to gain approval from your ex in an out of court agreement -- which a judge will need to approve -- to reduce your monthly child support obligation. As long as you approach this in the right way, and as long as you and your ex understand how a family court judge would view your situation, you could save a great deal of time and money by reaching an out of court agreement to reduce your child support payments.

File for a formal child support modification as a last resort

When you can't reach an out of court settlement with your ex, it's time to consider preparing a petition for child support modification. If your change in financial circumstances is significant enough, you will receive the modification you require.

As a final aside, Salt Lake City residents must remember that overdue child support bills will never disappear. You can't erase this kind of debt in bankruptcy court. Furthermore, child support modifications are not retroactive, so a family court judge will not forgive the child support money you owe. Keeping this in mind, it's important to act now before your situation becomes too difficult.

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